How to Prevent Tractor-Trailer Jackknife Accidents

semi-trailers-534577_1280Unlike other vehicles, big rigs require skill and expertise to be driven on the road. This is because, even the slightest of mistakes can cause major accidents. Losing control of such vehicles can prove to be fatal, not only for the driver, but also the other occupants of the road. One such common accident pattern is the jackknife.

A jackknife accident occurs when the trailer swings out of sync with the tractor and forms a V-shape with it. The trailer keeps pushing the tractor from behind continuously and, eventually, collides with it and keeps moving along the road causing further possibilities of accidents along the way. The name is derived from a type of knife, the blade of which folds into the handle.

There can be several causes of jackknife accidents. These could include skidding, engine deceleration, over-braking and so on. The sad news is, even the most skilled of drivers can fall prey to jackknife accidents. However, if the driver takes quick action, the possibility of jackknife accidents can be eliminated for angles up to 15 degrees.

There are certain measures that can be taken to prevent jackknife accidents. Let’s take a look at them in details.

Drive Within the Speed Limit

Jackknife accidents occur when the trailer swerves out of control. One of the causes for this is driving above the speed limit. Driving above 55 mph can be quite dangerous with a trailer. Sometimes, sudden acceleration can be the cause of tractor-trailer jackknife accidents.

It is important to be highly cautious about driving the tractor with a caravan trailing behind. Staying within the speed limit will help you slow down your vehicle if the trailer starts to jackknife.

Brake Carefully

Sudden brakes can be dangerous with a trailer. It may cause the trailer to spin out of control. Therefore, it is important to start braking ahead and spreading it over a long distance. This will help to keep the trailer in control. This is more applicable when you are driving downhill.

Maneuvering a tractor-trailer through curves can be quite dangerous. Instead of braking at the curve, it is always wise to slow down gradually way before the turning to reduce the trailer’s momentum. While making the turn, do not forget to take your foot off the brake. This will leave you enough room to make the turn safely.

Avoid Skids

Most jackknife accidents start with a skid. Therefore, you would need to look out for signs of a possible skid and take the necessary steps to avoid it. It is important to exercise precaution while driving on wet roads or roads covered in snow.

However, if you find your trailer on the verge of a skid, you should immediately release the brake and correct the skid before the trailer swings into the point of no return.

Be Extra Careful in Case of Light Loads

Jackknife accidents are more likely to occur for trailers carrying light loads than those carrying heavy loads. Also, an uneven distribution of load can also result in jackknife accidents since this could provide reduced traction and, consequently, cause skidding when brakes are applied.

Check Your Vehicle’s Tires and Brakes

Sometimes a skid and a consequent jackknife may occur from worn out tires. Additionally, poorly working brakes may also cause catastrophic accidents on the road. Therefore, make sure to check these from time to time, especially before going out on a trip, to prevent a jackknife accident.

Use Anti-Lock Braking System

When a series of heavy brakes are applied on the wheels, they tend to get locked up causing the trailer to veer out of control into a jackknife. The anti-lock technology has been designed to prevent this by placing sensors in the vehicle. As soon as these sensors detect unusual heavy braking, they quickly reduce the pressure of the brake on the wheel, thus eliminating any chance of causing jackknife accidents.

Apart from these, you should always exercise safety measures while driving. Keep an eye on the mirror for any accidental swerving of the trailer. If you find that the trailer is out of sync with the tractor, release the brake and avoid applying it until you have maneuvered the trailer in line with the tractor.

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One Comment

  1. Levi Armstrong

    My dad is looking for dump trailers for sale for his private farm in the countryside. It would be his first hauling a dump trailer so I am worried about his safety. I like that you said he should gradually step on the breaks so the trailer would not spin out of control. This is done to reduce the trailer’s momentum. I’ll share this whole article with him, so he knows what safety precautions to take when he starts driving the trailer. Thanks!

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